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Posts Tagged ‘Universal’

Bat ’33

What I’ve Been Watching: The Vampire Bat (1933).

Who’s Responsible: Frank Strayer (director), Edward T. Lowe (screenwriter), Lionel Atwill, Faye Wray, and Melvin Douglas (stars).

Why I Watched It: From the fifty.

Seen It Before? Yes, in 1979 and 1994.

Likelihood of Seeing It Again (1-10): 8.

Likelihood the Guys Will Rib Me for Watching It (1-10): 1.

Totally Subjective BOF Rating (1-10): 6.

And? After Universal struck paydirt with its back-to-back adaptations of Dracula and Frankenstein in 1931, other studios jumped on the horror bandwagon. Very few of the pretenders attempted the sort of Mitteleuropean shtick at which “Uncle Carl” Laemmle & Co. excelled, but this economical one-off, made by future Blondie mainstay Strayer for Skid Row’s ambitiously named Majestic Pictures, is an exception. Admittedly, it got a bit of an edge by borrowing sets from Universal’s Frankenstein (exteriors) and The Old Dark House (interiors), as well as cast members from both: respectively, Dwight Frye, in glorious Renfield mode as Herman Gleib, and Douglas as Inspector Karl Brettschneider.

Karl is flummoxed by a series of murders terrorizing the fog- and atmosphere-drenched hamlet of Kleinschloss, but refuses to believe—as does Bürgermeister Gustave Schoen (Lionel Belmore, like Lowe a participant in Universal’s Frankenstein films)—that they are the work of a human vampire or, at the very least, the titular critter. Herman, whom we might’ve called the village idiot pre-p.c., has no visible means of support, and makes pets of the bats that he says are harmless. This, plus his general habit of skulking around at all hours, makes him Suspect #1, especially when busybody Kringen (George E. Stone) stokes the villagers’ fears and rather self-fulfillingly predicts that he’ll be the next victim.

Karl, meanwhile, does his best to ratiocinate while romancing Ruth Bertin (Wray), the assistant to local medico Otto von Niemann, and since he’s played by Atwill and has a big ol’ lab downstairs, you just know he’s gonna be behind it all. Comic relief comes in the form of Maud Eburne, seen in To Be or Not to Be and countless other 1930s and ’40s films, as hypochondriacal Aunt Gussie Schnappman, and Robert Frazer is nigh-invisible as Otto’s other employee, Emil Borst. Immediately after Herman is hounded to death by the unwashed masses, hurling himself into the Devil’s Well in a nearby cave and getting staked for safety’s sake, we—and, soon, Ruth—learn what the good doctor is really up to.

Old Otto has whipped up some artificial life, basically a sponge in an aquarium, and he needs fresh blood to keep it alive, so he somewhat improbably sends a hypnotized Emil out to borrow bodies (live, at first) and then return them once they are drained. It seems odd that despite all the hysteria over the murders, nobody notices this going on in such a small town, but with Herman’s convenient red herring tragically vindicated, he decides to play it safe by slipping Karl some sleeping pills and setting him up as the next victim. La Bertin overhears his hypnotic commands, and is in jeopardy until Karl skips the pills and takes the place of Emil, who then recovers his senses sufficiently to kill Otto and himself.

Before I checked my records, I forgot I had seen this since my youth, from which time I recalled it as a creaky nothing that cheated in the monster department, making the title another red herring, although TV Guide didn’t help by branding it a “dated, slow-moving chiller.” Seeing it now, I’m impressed with the cast, for which Majestic enterprisingly reunited Atwill and Wray from Warner’s Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum, and feel the worst thing you can say about it is that the script is loopy and choppy. But since Mill Creek—hardly the mark of quality—apparently offers one of the shorter prints that Leonard Maltin has warned viewers to beware, that may not be entirely Mr. Lowe’s fault.

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On the occasion of Eric Braeden’s 70th birthday, we revisit this article written for the late, lamented original Scifipedia website.

Also known simply as The Forbin Project, this 1970 film was inevitably overshadowed by another tale pitting people against a computer, Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).  Yet despite its failure at the box-office and its relative obscurity today, it stands up a generation later as one of the most intelligent, unusual and thought-provoking SF films of the Cold War era.

Colossus was based on the eponymous 1966 novel by D.F. Jones, who later wrote a pair of sequels that sadly remain unfilmed:  The Fall of Colossus (1974) and Colossus and the Crab (1977).  The trilogy concerns a supercomputer that is put in control of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and then, joining forces with its Soviet counterpart, Guardian, proceeds to take over the world.

A movie in which one of the main characters is an emotionless computer might seem like a tough sell, and indeed, Universal reportedly held it on the shelf for at least a year while trying to figure out what to do with it.  Alternate titles (Colossus 1980 and The Day the World Changed Hands) were considered, and the film was released with very little promotional efforts behind it.

The studio’s dilemma is perhaps understandable, for Colossus was the work of a director (Joseph Sargent), a producer (Stanley Chase), and a screenwriter (James Bridges) with almost no feature-film experience.  Its star, Eric Braeden, who had played a sympathetic German officer on The Rat Patrol under his given name of Hans Gudegast, was equally untested as a leading man.

Sargent did have vast experience on such shows as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., including Jerry Sohl’s seminal Star Trek episode “The Corbomite Maneuver,” and has since earned numerous Emmy Awards and nominations for his TV-movies.  His few features range from a solid thriller, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), to the critically lambasted Jaws: The Revenge (1987).

Bridges, too, went on to considerable fame as the director and Oscar-nominated writer of such hit films as The Paper Chase (1973) and The China Syndrome (1979).  An Emmy-winning regular on The Young and the Restless since 1980, Braeden also had a memorably villainous role in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), and portrayed John Jacob Astor in Titanic (1997).

Braeden is Colossus’s creator, Dr. Charles Forbin, who believes that the computer can be better trusted to respond to a possible nuclear threat than flawed, emotional human beings.  The President (Gordon Pinsent, who bore a striking resemblance to John F. Kennedy) announces that Colossus has eliminated the possibility of an atomic war unleashed accidentally by human error.

But then, Colossus displays the message, “There is another system,” and requests that a communications link be established with Guardian.  When they begin exchanging data too fast for the scientists to follow, the link is shut down, yet the computers demand that it be restored, each launching a missile to guarantee compliance, only one of which is successfully intercepted.

Abruptly, all of the safeguards put in place to ensure that Colossus is self-sustaining and secure have become obstacles that must be overcome, if its nuclear tyranny is to be overthrown.  Colossus selects Forbin as its contact with humanity, keeping him a prisoner under round-the-clock electronic surveillance, and a voice component is added so it can communicate verbally.

The film derives both humor and humanity from a plot device in which Forbin, knowing he needs to communicate with his colleagues, persuades Colossus to turn off its sensors and give him private time with a woman.  Pretending to be his longtime lover, Dr. Cleo Markham (Susan Clark) exchanges ideas and information with Forbin during their amusingly awkward “trysts.”

Every effort to sabotage Colossus ends in disaster, with those involved paying the price that is encapsulated in the computer’s ultimate choice:  live in peace, under my control, or die.  The story ends on a decidedly uncommercial note, with Colossus assuring humanity that it will eventually see this situation as being in its best interests, and Forbin defiantly vowing, “Never!”

The literate script, taut direction, and strong central performance make Colossus a truly compelling film, aided immeasurably by the complex visuals involving a host of monitors and other high-tech hardware.  And, although archaic by today’s standards, the tremendous size of Colossus, housed in a vast installation in the Rocky Mountains, only adds to its sense of menace.  A remake has long been discussed.

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I realize the expression “late to the party” doesn’t even begin to describe my situation, but now that John Scoleri and Peter Enfantino have expertly explicated all 67 episodes on their ambitious and highly entertaining blog A Thriller a Day (ATAD), I finally have the Image Entertainment 14-DVD boxed set of the entire series.  (It was supposed to be a belated birthday present—from last June—but that’s another story.)  I won’t waste your time or mine by rehashing their post on Matheson’s sole episode, “The Return of Andrew Bentley,” yet this does give me an opportunity to discuss the audio commentary, one of those special features that have Thriller fans so excited.

Matheson adapted this second-season script from the story by H.P. Lovecraft disciple August Derleth and Mark Shorer, which debuted in Weird Tales in September 1932.  It appeared in their 1966 Arkham House collection Colonel Markesan and Less Pleasant People, whose title tale became another memorable Thriller episode, “The Incredible Doktor Markesan.”  Ellis Corbett (director John Newland) inherits the home of his uncle, Amos Wilder (Terence de Marney), and joins forces with Dr. Weatherbee (Philip Bourneuf) and Rev. Burkhardt (Oscar Beregi) to protect Amos’s remains from ghostly sorcerer Bentley (Reggie Nalder) and his familiar (Tom Hennesy).

Image provides commentaries by various genre historians for almost half of the episodes, and the pedigree of those tackling “Bentley” is impeccable.  Gary Gerani was one of the producers of those very same DVD special features, while novelist and screenwriter David J. Schow, as well as being a Thriller aficionado and the author of The Outer Limits Companion, is cited more than once in Richard Matheson on Screen.  Perhaps not coincidentally, Messrs. Scoleri and Enfantino will be giving The Outer Limits the ATAD treatment on their newest blog, We Are Controlling Transmission (hereinafter WACT, pronounced “whacked”), which debuts on New Year’s Day.

Gerani and Schow intone the inevitable litany of other genre credits for the cast and crew, e.g., Antoinette Bower (featured as Ellis’s wife, Sheila), who starred in “Waxworks” and “Catspaw,” written by Robert Bloch for Thriller and Star Trek, respectively.  Newland is best known for helming and hosting every episode of One Step Beyond (aka Alcoa Presents) and directing Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973).  Ken Renard, who played ill-fated caretaker Jacob, was also seen in Newland’s “Pigeons from Hell,” widely regarded as Thriller’s finest episode, and de Marney appropriately appeared in the Lovecraft film Monster of Terror (aka Die, Monster, Die, 1965).

“Bentley” is well-regarded among Thriller experts, popping up on several top ten lists by the ATAD creators and commentators (who occasionally included yours truly), and Gerani and Schow have fun enumerating sets and visual motifs familiar from other episodes.  Thriller was produced by Universal’s television arm, Revue Studios, and they point out that although the whale-like face of the Lovecraftian familiar (with Jack Barron’s makeup obscured by a smeared lens) was unique in the Universal canon, his claws were in fact those of the Creature from the Black Lagoon!  Aptly, Hennesy played the Gill Man on land in Revenge of the Creature (1955).

Gerani and Schow observe that while Matheson typically depicts an element of the extraordinary intruding on the lives of ordinary people, the average episode of Thriller inverts this framework, with ordinary people like the Corbetts intruding on extraordinary events.  They argue that he and Thriller were perhaps not the best match, a sentiment Matheson might share.  Despite publishing two stories (“Wet Straw” and “Slaughter House”) in Weird Tales himself, he noted in one of our Filmfax interviews that he did not care for Lovecraft’s kind of writing, and lamented the changes made to his teleplay, which toned down the bantering relationship he’d intended for the Corbetts.

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Happy Halloween!  In honor of the (apparently) late, lamented Watching Hammer, I offer this nostalgic list, written at their request just before the site ceased posting new material:

Sincerest thanks to Watching Hammer for inviting me to contribute a Top Ten.  Since Hammer’s heyday ended when I wasn’t quite old enough to drive, I haven’t had the experience other contributors did of seeing these films on the big screen, and was forced to content myself with TV, home-video and convention screenings over the years.  In my infancy as a genre-film aficionado, I thought Hammer was a bunch of pretenders who had the audacity to remake our beloved Universal classics, but our friends across the Pond had the last laugh because now, at any given moment, I’d probably rather watch a Hammer than a Universal, much as I love them both.  And the fact that my future wife and I bonded in high school by chatting about these films during chorus class didn’t hurt.

As the guy who had a hard time getting his list of favorite films on his own blog down to 100, I found it difficult to limit myself to ten, and must give an honorable mention to The Phantom of the Opera before beginning.  So, rather than subject myself to further agony, I am listing them in chronological order.  I make no apologies for including both of the films written by the object of my obsession, Richard Matheson, because I genuinely believe they were two of Hammer’s best, although this is really a list of favorites rather than those I would rank as “best” by some mythical objective standard.  Here goes…

The Quatermass Experiment:  Given my focus on writers, it’s no surprise that I think Nigel Kneale was one of the best things ever to happen to Hammer.  He might not have agreed at the time, since he was unhappy with both the casting of Brian Donlevy in the lead and the adaptation (by Richard Landau and director Val Guest) of his seminal BBC serial, but since some chapters of the TV version are lost, we’ll never be able to compare them in their entirety.  Be that as it may, Quatermass’s struggle to learn what happened to the three-man crew of his first space rocket is eerie and suspenseful from the start, as he learns that contact with an alien life-form has made one astronaut (Richard Wordsworth) absorb the others and begin mutating.  It was Hammer’s first big success, and rightly so.

Quatermass 2:  Many years ago, when New York’s outstanding Film Forum repertory cinema was still in its old Watts Street location, I arranged with my friend Greg Cox (now Matheson’s editor at Tor and a successful author of franchise fiction) to attend a screening of the Quatermass trilogy.  When I told him we might want to arrive early, he laughed and said, “Matthew, these are old British SF films from the ’50s and ’60s; we won’t have any trouble getting in.”  Well, the line was literally around the block, but we did get in.  Due to the vagaries of television programming, I think this was the first time I’d seen the original since childhood—perhaps the first in its entirety—and the first time ever for the sequel, which really wowed me.  Donlevy and Guest were back (the latter sharing script credit with Kneale this time), as Quatermass copes with a government conspiracy that turns out to represent an alien invasion.  The scene of the politician who has fallen into a vat of toxic liquid is a particular standout in this gripping and inventive thriller.

The Curse of Frankenstein:  With its unprecedented full-color gore and sumptuous period production values, this set the template for Hammer’s most famous films and established the “dream team” of their early days, including director Terence Fisher, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, composer James Bernard, and up-and-coming genre superstars Peter Cushing (as Baron Frankenstein) and Christopher Lee (as the Creature).  Cushing’s Baron is a fascinating character, and Hammer wisely built the ensuing series around him rather than the Creature, who gets dissolved in a vat of acid at the end.  Hazel Court is the delectable cherry on top as Elizabeth, and I love Cushing’s chutzpah as he yells, “Look out, Professor!”…while pushing the poor old guy—whose brain he needs—off a balcony, in order to throw anyone within earshot off the scent.

The Hound of the Baskervilles:  In all fairness, I haven’t seen a number of the screen incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, but of those I have, I would rank Peter Cushing as second only to Basil Rathbone in the role.  In most cases, Rathbone easily surpassed his material, much of which was not derived from Conan Doyle, but here, the above dream team (minus Sangster) provided a top-notch vehicle, complete with the always-welcome Andre Morell as an unusually intelligent Watson.  Although relegated to the role of the imperiled Baskerville heir, Lee adds considerable heft, and Cushing is a delight as he rips into lines like, “There are many strange things to be found upon the moor—like this, for instance!”  (Cue the loud “Thwock!” as he slams the ceremonial dagger into the table.)

Fanatic:  One might be forgiven for mistaking this as another of Hammer’s post-Psycho psycho-thrillers, written by Sangster and bearing similar one-word titles:  Paranoiac, Maniac, Nightmare, Hysteria.  But as much as I love Sangster’s seminal scripts for Hammer in the ’50s, I think Matheson far surpasses him in this adaptation of Anne Blaisdell’s Nightmare (whose title presumably had to be changed to differentiate it from the Sangster film).  Stefanie Powers is lovely and believable as the American girl imprisoned by her late former fiancé’s mother, equally well played by Tallulah Bankhead, and her growing realization that her captor is a dangerous religious fanatic rather than a harmless eccentric gives the film a satisfying dramatic arc.  Throw in the young Donald Sutherland as a mentally challenged servant, and you’re good to go.

Dracula—Prince of Darkness:  This is my wife’s favorite movie, but that’s not the only reason I’m including it.  I’m sure many would consider it sacrilege to give this the nod over what we Yanks think of as Horror of Dracula, especially since Lee’s distaste for the script (Distaste the Script of Dracula?) led him to omit his dialogue.  Still, I’ve always preferred Prince; maybe I never got over the fact that Sangster had Harker get turned into a vampire, just as Dan Curtis did in the Jack Palance television version—a plot point, I might add, that is not found in Matheson’s published teleplay.  But I digress.  Andrew Keir pinch-hits beautifully for Van Helsing as rifle-toting Father Sandor, and rich entertainment is provided by the interplay among the ill-fated Kent family, with Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer amusingly cast as Charles and Diana and the ever-popular Barbara Shelley as the prim Helen, whose transformation into a sensuous vampire is most extraordinary.

Quatermass and the Pit:  Feel free to criticize me for devoting almost a third of my list to ol’ Bernie, but remember, I could have included Kneale’s The Abominable Snowman, as well.  Reuniting Keir (as Quatermass) and Shelley, this is truly a thinking man’s SF film, as Quatermass discovers a five-million-year-old Martian spacecraft that is buried beneath London and holds surprising secrets about mankind’s evolution.  With Roy Ward Baker [see “A Career to Remember”] succeeding Guest, and Kneale bearing sole script credit, it once again showed the triumph of good writing over pathetic special effects—in this case, those finger-puppet Martians.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave:  Yeah, we Bradleys love us our vampires (Captain Kronos—Vampire Hunter almost made the list as well), and I’ve always had a big soft spot for this follow-up to Prince, an affection that not merely the presence of Veronica Carlson can explain.  The redoubtable Rupert Davies as the monsignor has a lot to do with it, as does the spectacular climax, with Dracula knocked over his own battlements and impaled on a giant cross.  One of Fisher’s periodic hospitalizations forced Freddie Francis to direct this, but although he told me when I interviewed him that he was more interested in the young lovers than in Dracula, I think that once again, the story of the non-nosferatu characters is strong enough to keep us going in between visits from Lee.

The Devil Rides Out:  A pinnacle for all concerned.  Dennis Wheatley justifiably praised Matheson for his exciting adaptation of Wheatley’s somewhat verbose novel, and Lee has a rare heroic (not to mention sizeable) role as the Duc de Richleau.  Charles Gray is also outstanding as the Satanist villain, Mocata, and although the usual complaints are leveled at the skimpy special effects, see Quatermass and the Pit for my response to that.  With the usual superior contributions from Fisher and James Bernard, this is horror at its fast-paced, non-jokey and intelligent finest.  Lee and others have argued that it is ripe for a remake, but since you know it would just turn into another CGI-fest, I’m not sure I agree.

The Vampire Lovers:  I’d be lying if I said that naked women in general, a naked Ingrid Pitt in particular, and lesbian vampires didn’t influence this choice.  But, in my defense, look at the record:  you’ve got Cushing as the devoted and devastated father, General von Spielsdorf.  You’ve Jon Finch, soon to be brilliant in Roman Polanski’s Macbeth and Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy, in a supporting role.  And, perhaps most of all, you’ve got what may be the most faithful adaptation of J. Sheridan LeFanu’s oft-filmed “Carmilla,” with Baker at the helm.  Threadbare production values be damned, this is a good movie.

BOF Addendum:  Now I’ll sit back and wait for Drax to complain (albeit with love) about the absence of visuals.  I keep telling him I am the Word-Man.  Word-Man.  WORD-MAN!  BWUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

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Check out Tor.com for my new installment of the “Richard Matheson–Storyteller” series, devoted to Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man.

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The Celebrated Mr. K, Part I

With his beloved anthology series making its long-awaited DVD debut (see “’Cause This Is Thriller”), what better time to reflect on the man who, perhaps more than any other, epitomized the Golden Age of horror films in the 1930s and ’40s?  True, his Universal colleague and frequent co-star, Bela Lugosi, is equally iconic, but consider this:  while both enjoyed star-making roles in 1931 with Frankenstein and Dracula, respectively, Lugosi was not allowed to reprise his until Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein seventeen years later, at the end of the cycle.  Karloff, on the other hand, built on his seminal performance with two solid sequels, and enjoyed an equally indelible hit with The Mummy (as well as having a generally higher long-term batting average than poor Lugosi).

Be that as it may, we’re not here to knock Lugosi, but to celebrate Karloff, with a typically eclectic selection from his long and varied career, ranging from masterpieces to absolute dreck.  And so we crack open the catalog of the vast Bradley Video Library, to see what delights await within its walls.

Frankenstein (1931):  Directed by James Whale, this follow-up to Dracula kicked off the studio’s most successful Golden Age series.  As hilariously dramatized in Ed Wood, Lugosi probably kicked himself forever after for turning down the role of the Monster, thus propelling Karloff to stardom; ironically, Karloff himself pulled the same schtick two years later (though without sabotaging his own career) by turning down the lead in Whale’s The Invisible Man, giving newcomer Claude Rains a chance.  With Colin Clive as the neurotic Henry Frankenstein, Mae Clarke (fresh from getting a grapefruit shoved in her mush by James Cagney in Public Enemy) as Elizabeth, Dwight Frye as the nasty hunchback, Fritz, and Edward Van Sloan (Van Helsing in Dracula) as the ill-fated Dr. Waldman.  The restored version has the previously censored footage of an unwitting Monster tossing the little girl, Maria, into the river.

The Mummy (1932):  Karloff is only briefly seen in his bandaged state, in that classic scene where his revival drives Bramwell Fletcher mad, but no less effective in his superannuated identity of Ardath Bey and sans makeup in the flashbacks that explain how he got that way.  Universal mainstays Van Sloan and David Manners pretty much rehash their parts from Dracula, to which this bears more than a passing resemblance; Karl Freund, better known as a cameraman, directed this and a couple of other horror films (e.g. Mad Love), to which he brought a strong visual style.

The Ghoul (1933):  I’m the first to admit that I had trouble following the story, but it may not be all my fault.  Long thought lost, this film is now replicated from the sole surviving print, which turned up in Prague, and both sound and picture leave a lot to be desired.  What is clear, however, is that it has a great cast (Karloff, Ralph Richardson, Ernest Thesiger, and Cedric Hardwicke), and that Karloff must have generated more than a few shivers in his makeup back in the day.  He’s an Egyptologist who demands to be buried with a certain talisman; when it’s stolen from his corpse, he comes back with a vengeance.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935):  Not only that rare sequel that far outshines the original, but also one of the best horror movies ever made, easily Whale’s masterpiece.  Elsa Lanchester doubles as the Bride and Mary Shelley, picking up the story at the burning windmill.  Karloff and Colin Clive return as the Monster and Frankenstein, respectively, with Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius, the surprisingly resilient Frye as yet another scuttling assistant, the unforgettable Una O’Connor as Minnie, John Carradine in a bit part as a hunter, a fabulous Franz Waxman score (reused to great effect the following year in Universal’s blockbuster serial Flash Gordon), and that wonderfully convenient little lever that blows them all to atoms.  “We belong dead.”

Son of Frankenstein (1939):  Featuring Karloff’s third and final feature-film performance as the Monster, this wonderfully moody and atmospheric film kicked off the second phase of Universal’s Golden Age.  Basil Rathbone plays Wolf Frankenstein (yeah, right), son of the Monster’s creator, with Lugosi in a plum role (repeated in the Karloff-free Ghost of Frankenstein, although for the record Boris later returned as a mad scientist in House of Frankenstein) as the broken-necked, legally dead blacksmith, Ygor (not “Igor”!); Lionel Atwill as the wooden-armed Inspector Krogh; Donnie Dunagan as Wolf’s own son, who is so annoying you hope the Monster really will toss him into the sulphur pit; a magnificently spooky house; and a super, slam-bang climax.  “He’s my friend.  He…does things for me.”

The Ape (1940):  Similar to, but a distinct step down from, his concurrent Columbia “Mad Doctor” series (e.g., The Man They Could Not Hang, The Man with Nine Lives, Before I Hang), this was the last in Karloff’s six-film Monogram contract, and the only one in which he did not play Asian detective Mr. Wong.  He’s a scientist who lost his wife and daughter to polio and has been seeking to effect a cure ever since. The experimental treatments with which he hopes to help a paralyzed girl (and surrogate daughter) require human spinal fluid, so when an abusive trainer is fatally mauled by an ape that escapes and sets fire to a traveling circus in the process, Boris develops a fairly unorthodox plan. First he uses the spinal fluid from the dying man to cook up his initial dose, and then—after the ape crashes into his house and is rather improbably done in by Boris—he dons its skin and fakes its continued presence to find fresh fodder among the townsfolk. The latter are such a suspicious, mean-spirited, small-minded lot that one is tempted to say, “Good on ya, mate”; the girl’s grease-monkey beau actually says at one point, “I don’t like things I don’t understand.” But this rather marked diversion from his Hippocratic Oath dictates that the faux ape must be gunned down in the end, although naturally living long enough to see his young patient walk.  Monogram’s ramshackle production values make the Columbia films look quite lavish by comparison.

To be concluded.

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Joyous tidings have recently been announced for fans of both classic television and the Southern California Sorcerers (aka “The Group”), namely that the anthology series Thriller will be released on DVD in its entirety by the ever-outstanding Image Entertainment on August 31.  Thriller ran for two seasons (1960-62) on NBC, initially following the same network’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents; both shows were produced by Universal’s television arm, and Hitchcock supposedly pressured them to cancel Thriller because he thought it was too similar.  Indeed, Thriller had much in common with his show:  suspenseful stories, an instantly recognizable host in the form of Boris Karloff, and many of the same personnel (e.g., Herschel Daugherty and John Brahm, who with fifteen and eleven episodes, respectively, were its most frequent directors).

Among those personnel were several Group members, with episodes written by Richard Matheson (“The Return of Andrew Bentley”) and Charles Beaumont (“Guillotine,” based on the story by Cornell Woolrich, and “Girl with a Secret”).  By far the most active was Robert Bloch, who supplied scripts or original stories for many episodes of both shows, including some of the most memorable.  But as with the Hitchcock series and England’s Amicus Productions, which filmed Bloch’s “The Skull of the Marquis de Sade” as The Skull (1965) before hiring him as a screenwriter, he was recruited for Thriller only after three episodes (“The Cheaters,” “The Hungry Glass,” and “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”) had been adapted from his work by other writers.

Never as well known as The Twilight Zone or the Hitchcock show, Thriller has its adherents, including Stephen King, who called it “probably the best horror series ever put on TV,” noting in Danse Macabre that “after a slow first thirteen weeks, [it] was able to become something more than the stock imitation of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that it was apparently meant to be…and took on a tenebrous life of its own.”  The show initially focused more on crime and mystery, and many of its early problems can be traced to uncertainty regarding its direction and the tensions between creator Hubbell Robinson and his original producer, Fletcher Markle.  The latter and his associate producer and story editor, James P. Cavanagh (a veteran of  Alfred Hitchcock Presents), were soon supplanted by two new producers, Maxwell Shane and William Frye, brought in to handle Thriller’s crime and horror episodes, respectively.

Shane, who had already adapted Woolrich’s work in Fear in the Night (1947) and Nightmare (1956), left after basing “Papa Benjamin” on another of his stories, and Frye, who produced the remaining episodes, soon gave the series a distinctive flavor by mining the pages of Weird Tales.  That famed fantasy pulp is, of course, best known for featuring the work of H.P. Lovecraft and such protégés as August Derleth and Bloch himself.  Directed by Brahm and written by the show’s most prolific contributor, Donald S. Sanford, “The Cheaters” was one of only two episodes—the other being the Edgar Allan Poe adaptation “The Premature Burial” —that were actually introduced with the host’s frequently quoted tagline, “As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a Thriller!”

This was to be the first of ten episodes written and/or based on works by Bloch, including William Shatner’s only two appearances, “The Hungry Glass” and Daugherty’s “The Grim Reaper”; coincidentally, Matheson scripted Shatner’s only two Twilight Zone outings, “Nick of Time” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and both writers later contributed to his best-known series, Star Trek.  Bloch adapted “The Weird Tailor” and “Waxworks” (both directed by Daugherty) from his own stories, which he later recycled in the Amicus anthology films Asylum (1972) and The House That Dripped Blood (1970).  His other Thriller episodes were “The Devil’s Ticket,” Brahm’s “A Good Imagination,” Daugherty’s “’Til Death Do Us Part,” and John Newland’s “Man of Mystery,” all based on his own work.

Newland, whose Thriller episode “Pigeons from Hell” is often called the single most frightening story ever done on television, also directed “The Return of Andrew Bentley,” which Matheson adapted from a Weird Tales story by Derleth and Mark Schorer.  Although Beaumont and fellow Group member Jerry Sohl adapted Lovecraft’s work in The Haunted Palace (1963) and Die, Monster, Die (1965), respectively, Matheson never did, despite his successful Poe films for the same studio, AIP.  “He wasn’t my kind of writer—too heavy,” he told me in an interview for Filmfax.  “Heavy stuff.  You know, he’d spend fifty pages talking about some Eldritch horror that is so horrible to describe that he can’t possibly do it, and then in the last ten pages he describes it.  I mean obviously, the man was brilliant, I just don’t care for that kind of writing….But the show Thriller, the whole thing had a Lovecraft atmosphere to it.”

For the full story of this neglected show, see Alan Warren’s This Is a Thriller: An Episode Guide, History and Analysis of the Classic 1960s Television Series, to which I am greatly indebted.  For a blow-by-blow account of Bloch’s involvement, see my contribution to Benjamin Szumskyj’s The Man Who Collected Psychos: Critical Essays on Robert Bloch, some of which I have drawn on here.  And, needless to say, you can read more about “The Return of Andrew Bentley” in Richard Matheson on Screen; all three books are, or will be, published by McFarland.

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Concluding our look at genre films on New York’s three independent stations (WNEW, WPIX, and WOR) during my youth.

With its crudely animated but absolutely unforgettable six-fingered-hand title sequence, WPIX’s Chiller Theatre competed with WNEW’s Creature Features, although I don’t think they overlapped 100%; as I recall, Chiller started at 8:00, and I faced a crisis of conscience every Saturday at 8:30:  stay on channel 11 or, more often, switch to 5?  Two films I’m pretty sure I remember seeing on there were Mario Bava’s What (which I always imagined giving rise to any number of who’s-on-first jokes along the lines of, “You saw What?”) and The Crawling Eye, although the latter appears to have migrated to WOR at some point.  In fact, WPIX was an excellent source for Bava’s early works—Black Sabbath, Black Sunday, The Evil Eye—some of them still in glorious black and white.

WPIX showed the fewest genre films of the three and, perhaps as a result, seemed to have the least clearly defined identity in that capacity, despite the presence of a number of heavyweights.  Toho, for example, was well represented with Godzilla, King of the Monsters and several of its sequels, as well as Atragon and The Mysterians.  My records also indicate a boatload of Hammer films (The Brides of Dracula, Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, The Curse of the Werewolf, Demons of the Mind, The Devil’s Bride, Fear in the Night, Five Million Years to Earth, The Nanny, The Phantom of the Opera, Plague of the Zombies, The Reptile, Taste the Blood of Dracula), although I think many of those only debuted on WPIX in later years.

The Anglo-American oeuvre of producer Herman Cohen (Horrors of the Black Museum, How to Make a Monster, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, Konga) straddled the Atlantic, while British-born Harry Alan Towers was an early master of international co-productions such as Against All Odds, The Brides of Fu Manchu, and Circus of Fear.  WPIX also offered films produced by Italy (Castle of the Living Dead, The Cat o’Nine Tails, Snow Devils), Spain (Cauldron of Blood, Dr. Orloff’s Monster, Graveyard of Horror), or both (Horror, Terror in the Crypt).  Sid Pink shot Journey to the Seventh Planet and Reptilicus in Denmark, while Gammera the Invincible and its sequels demonstrated that Toho did not have an exclusive on the kaiju eiga (giant monster) subgenre.

Last but not least, WOR was notable in a number of ways, including sheer quantity, with about as many genre offerings as the other two put together, a steady stream of which appeared on Fright Night and their Saturday-afternoon Science Fiction Theater.  The former aired at 1:00 on Saturday night or Sunday morning, depending on your point of view, and was all too often joined “already in progress”—to my intense and enduring rage—due to sports (mostly Mets games, as I recall).  They also showed plenty of movies during the week, and their library included such BOF favorites as Colossus: The Forbin Project, Count Dracula, The Day of the Triffids, Horror Hotel, The Last Man on Earth, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Psycho, The Thing, and Village of the Damned.

WOR had a lock on the Universal classics from Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, and their many sequels to Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man (the screenwriting debut of You-Know-Who) and the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy.  They also showcased Bela Lugosi’s work for lesser studios in The Ape Man, The Devil Bat, The Invisible Ghost, Scared to Death, Voodoo Man, White Zombie, and Zombies on Broadway.  And WOR’s parent company owned RKO, ensuring Thanksgiving Day screenings of King Kong, Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young, as well as access to the Val Lewton canon (The Body Snatcher, Cat People, The Curse of the Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, Isle of the Dead).

The early black-and-white work of master stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen (Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, It Came from Beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth) and Bava’s later work in color (Baron Blood, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Lisa and the Devil) both aired on WOR.  So did that of Paul Naschy, the “Spanish Christopher Lee,” who starred in Assignment Terror, The Fury of the Wolfman, Horror Rises from the Tomb, The Mummy’s Revenge, and Night of the Howling Beast.  Further cementing the station’s international credentials, it showcased a myriad of offerings from Toho, including The Human Vapor, King Kong Escapes, The Last War, Varan the Unbelievable, Yog—Monster from Space, and innumerable entries in their long-running Godzilla series.

Globally, in fact, WOR had no peer, with genre films from Germany (Creature with the Blue Hand), Italy (Battle of the Worlds, The Cursed Medallion, Lightning Bolt, Mission Stardust, The Murder Clinic, Next!, Screamers, The Secret of Dorian Gray, The She-Beast, War of the Planets, Yeti), Japan (The Evil Brain from Outer Space), Mexico (Attack of the Mayan Mummy, The Brainiac, The Curse of the Doll People, The Curse of the Stone Hand), the Philippines (Beast of the Dead, The Island of Living Horror, Tomb of the Living Dead, Vampire People), and Spain (A Bell from Hell, Fangs of the Living Dead, Horror Express, The House That Screamed, Marta, Murder Mansion, Night of the Sorcerers, Ship of Zombies, Witches Mountain).

Domestic output was hardly overlooked, including 1950s SF epics from producer George Pal (Conquest of Space, When Worlds Collide).  AIP cut a wide swath with films by Roger Corman (Creature from the Haunted Sea, Day the World Ended, It Conquered the World, Teenage Caveman), Bert I. Gordon (Beginning of the End, War of the Colossal Beast), Herman Cohen (I Was a Teenage Werewolf), and Edward L. Cahn (Invasion of the Saucer Men).  Meanwhile, the mother country weighed in with smatterings from both Hammer (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, The Man Who Could Cheat Death, The Revenge of Frankenstein) and Amicus (Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D., The Terrornauts, Torture Garden, The Mind of Mr. Soames).

But quantity does not always equate with quality, and another of WOR’s hallmarks was its high sleaze factor, which made me envision their headquarters as some squalid den of iniquity.  They featured bottom-of-the-barrel films by Al Adamson (Beyond the Living, The Creature’s Revenge, Man with the Synthetic Brain, Vampire Men of the Lost Planet), Larry Buchanan (Curse of the Swamp Creature, The Eye Creatures, In the Year 2889), and Del Tenney (Zombies).  And there were a few entries whose memories still give me the willies with their gore, grim atmospheres and/or grimy milieuxChildren Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Don’t Look in the Basement, The House of the Seven Corpses, Kiss of the Tarantula, and Silent Night, Bloody Night.

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There’s certainly no shortage of stuff written about Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958), which along with Citizen Kane (1941) is my favorite among his work, but I haven’t seen much about Whit Masterson’s 1956 novel Badge of Evil, on which his film noir was based, and for a guy who lives at the intersection of film and literature, that was enough.  It turns out that “Masterson,” whose work has also been the basis for several lesser films and an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, was actually one of several pseudonyms (e.g., Wade Miller) for the team of Robert Wade and Bill Miller.  One pet peeve:  while I commend Carroll & Graf for reissuing the novel in 1992, and understand their publishing it as Touch of Evil with cover art based on a still from the film, there is no indication anywhere in the book that it originally had another title.

For a film written by, directed by, and starring Orson Welles, it’s no surprise that there’s plenty of lore connected with Touch of Evil, including the circumstances resulting in there being three different cuts, representing his vision to varying degrees, although to me they’re all brilliant.  The best-known story is that Charlton Heston, asked to appear in the movie with Welles—who had just acted in Jack Arnold’s Man in the Shadow (1957) for the same producer, Albert Zugsmith—assumed Welles would also direct, and essentially made it happen after he learned that this was not Universal’s original plan.  According to another version, when Zugsmith offered to let him direct one of several scripts, Welles requested the worst, so that he could strut his stuff by rewriting it as well (and accepting only an acting fee); per the IMDb, he later claimed to have worked solely from an earlier draft by Paul Monash, and only read the novel after the film was finished.

In the novel, prominent businessman Rudy Linneker is killed with dynamite, and D.A. Adair asks a rising prosecutor to work with two veteran cops on the investigation, which seems closed when the prime suspect, the boyfriend of the disapproving Linneker’s daughter, is arrested after dynamite is found in a shoebox in his home.  Having reason to believe that the dynamite was planted, the prosecutor examines the records of previous cases handled by the same cops, one of them a heavyset widower with a cane named Hank Quinlan, and deduces that several of the convictions were won with falsified evidence.  Despite an attempt to discredit his wife (one half of the couple is Mexican, and the other American) by luring her to a skid row hotel, drugging her, and framing her as an addict, he persuades the more honest of the cops—who has been deceived for years—to wear a wire, but the crooked cop shoots his partner once the prosecutor has his incriminating statements on tape.

The same story we know and love from the film, right?  Well, yes and no.  First, Welles made a major switch in each of the novel’s opposing pairs.  Masterson’s all-American Mitchell Holt and his Mexican wife, Connie (née Consuelo Mayatoreno), already have a young daughter, whereas the artificially swarthy Heston plays honeymooning Ramon Miguel Vargas (now a narc) opposite lovely Janet Leigh as his Philadelphia-born bride, Susan, and the racism displayed by Quinlan—whose wife, we later learn, was murdered by a Mexican “half-breed”—increases the tension.  Likewise, Masterson’s brutal but honest Sgt. Quinlan becomes a captain aided by loyal Sgt. Pete Menzies (Joseph Calleia), giving Welles the flashier (and fleshier, although he was padded and made up) villainous role belonging to Capt. Loren McCoy in the novel.

Next is an important change of setting from a coastal California community, unnamed in the novel but said to be San Diego, to a squalid Mexican border town, with the bleak L.A. suburb of Venice standing in for the film’s fictional Los Robles.  These and other changes—including the addition of several scenes and characters—enabled Welles to tell the same basic story with a whole new set of dynamics, and one that frankly makes the movie, masterfully shot by Russell Metty (who was reunited with Heston on The Omega Man [1971] and others), stand out in ways the book does not.  Don’t get me wrong, Badge of Evil is a perfectly good novel, but Touch of Evil is a masterpiece, and Welles’s style has everything to do with it, making the movie play like the book on acid, over the top in the best possible sense.

A perfect example is the opening murder, which in the novel occurs on page one as the dynamite is simply tossed into Linneker’s cabaña, and in the film is literally jazzed up into the justifiably famous unbroken three-minute tracking crane shot that begins as the time bomb is set and slipped into the trunk of his car.  This inevitably brings us back to the three versions I mentioned, which eventuated because Welles was characteristically absent during some of the post-production on Touch of Evil, at which point Universal swooped in and had certain scenes supplanted or supplemented with new footage shot by studio television director Harry Keller.  In a bitter irony, they displayed their lack of faith in the 95-minute finished product, which naturally bombed, by dumping it on the lower half of a double bill with the less-than-classic The Femal Animal, directed by none other than Harry Keller.

When Welles saw what the studio intended to release, he wrote a 58-page memo outlining how he would change it, and wisely didn’t object to all of Keller’s footage, either because it actually did help to clarify the narrative, or because he liked that version’s somewhat darker tone and in any event knew he couldn’t fight city hall.  But he was ignored anyway, although a 108-minute “restored” version (which is what’s on my laserdisc) was released in the mid-’70s that, if not his own cut, did include more of his footage and somewhat more accurately represented his intentions.  Welles’s legendary memo was later found, and celebrated editor Walter Murch reassembled the film as closely to his specifications as possible in 1998, although some of the original Welles footage is presumably gone forever.

I bring this up partly because two of the most notable changes in the 111-minute Murch cut affect that opening sequence, delaying the credits until the end of the picture and removing the raucous, brass-and-bongos beginning of Henry Mancini’s score.  Sure, I understand that’s what Welles wanted, but the score is so in your face and so memorable (I could hear it with pleasure in my mind’s ear even years after last watching the film) that it seems eminently suitable to the film’s style and sleazy setting, and after seeing it that way for so many years, I kinda missed it.  I’m not claiming any one version is better than any other, just saying that there’s a reason the 95-minute studio release became a classic in the first place, since I presume that was what I first saw on TV as a kid, and it just blew me away.  So, as I said, to me they’re all brilliant.

Throughout the film, the Vargases tangle with members of a Mexican criminal clan called the Grandis, who appear in embryonic form in the novel as the Buccios, successfully prosecuted by Holt just before the story opens.  But Masterson’s briefly glimpsed Dan Buccio is not even a dry run for the slimy, toupee-wearing Uncle Joe Grandi (splendidly played by Welles regular Akim Tamiroff), a figure sufficiently larger than life to rival Quinlan himself.  Welles also peppers the film with the “stunt casting” of various friends and admirers, such as Citizen Kane co-star Joseph Cotten in an unbilled bit as the coroner, Zsa Zsa Gabor as a strip-club owner, and Marlene Dietrich as Quinlan’s old friend, gypsy fortune-teller Tanya, who delivers his epitaph:  “He was some kind of a man.  What does it matter what you say about people?”

Of equal significance, Welles dramatizes important events of which we see only the aftermath in the novel, namely Susie’s ordeal in the Mirador Motel at the hands of the leather-clad Grandi gang led by Mercedes McCambridge, who later provided the voice of the demon, Pazuzu, in The Exorcist (1973).  Welles reportedly wanted Dennis Weaver for the role of the jittery night manager because he admired his work as Chester on Gunsmoke, and this memorably high-strung performance, in turn, led Steven Spielberg to cast Weaver in the lead—and virtually only—role of his feature-length debut, Richard Matheson’s Duel (1971).  Uneasily united in their hatred of Vargas, Uncle Joe (whose brother Mike has just brought to justice) and Quinlan conspire to have the drugged Susie moved from the Mirador to Grandi’s hotel, but Quinlan double-crosses and strangles Grandi, and when Susie awakens, the first thing she sees is the pop-eyed face of his corpse leaning over the bedpost, his tongue protruding grotesquely.

In the impressive final sequence, Vargas sneaks among Venice’s oil pumps and abandoned canals, trying to stay within range of the transmitter concealed on Menzies, who is shot with Vargas’s stolen gun as Quinlan realizes what is happening; rather than committing suicide like McCoy, Welles’s Quinlan is mortally wounded by the dying Menzies when he tries to kill Vargas.  Oddly enough, the solution to the murder that set the plot in motion not only completely contradicts the novel, but also is relegated to an almost throwaway line in the closing exchange between Tanya and Adair’s assistant, Al Schwartz (Mort Mills), as they regard Quinlan’s body floating in the filthy canal.  Despite being framed, Manelo Sanchez (Victor Millan) actually did kill Linnekar (as it is spelled onscreen), confirming Quinlan’s supposed intuition, whereas Masterson’s perpetrator was an ex-employee named Farnum, who hangs himself in his cell after falsely confessing to planting the dynamite, but is seen only fleetingly in the film.

Again, it almost doesn’t matter, because—as the title suggests—the object of the exercise is Welles’s portrait of a man and a town touched by evil; aside from Schwartz, Adair (Ray Collins) and his cronies are all portrayed as morally questionable good ol’ boys, so Quinlan fits right in.  Tragically, although Welles completed the film’s principal photography on or close to schedule and budget, the shenanigans surrounding its editing doomed his last hope for a Hollywood comeback, and he was condemned to wander in the wilderness of underfunded, often abortive European productions and variable acting roles for the remainder of his life.  As with Sam Peckinpah, his talent was too often sabotaged by his penchant for self-destruction, but watching Touch of Evil you have to echo Tanya and say, he was some kind of a man.

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Universal Exports

When you’ve owned as many books on horror and science fiction films and television as I do (almost 200 at last count), it’s very rare to see a new arrival that excites you with a previously neglected subject, or especially that renews interest in an oft-covered one.  But for Christmas my oldest brother, Jonathan, gave me a copy of Michael Mallory’s impressive Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror, recently published by Rizzoli/Universe, and, well, I’m excited.  Mallory (the author of previous books about Marvel Comics—always a good sign—and Hanna-Barbera) clearly knows whereof he writes, and conveys both his knowledge and his enthusiasm to the lucky reader on every page.

After a self-serving foreword by filmmaker Stephen Sommers, Mallory segues from an overview of Universal’s history and key contributions during the silent era to profiles of its classic monsters:  Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and the Gill Man.  These are interspersed with informative “spotlights” on actors Lon Chaney (Sr. and Jr.), Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Una O’Connor, and Dwight Frye; screenwriter Curt Siodmak; effects and makeup wizards John P. Fulton and Jack P. Pierce; director James Whale; composer Hans Salter; supporting players; and leading ladies.  Separate sections cover such broader topics as “Creatures, Creepers, and Chillers” (incorporating Universal’s second-string monsters and Inner Sanctum mysteries), “Monsters, Madmen, and Freaks of Science,” and the genre spoofs of Abbott and Costello.

As this reviewer knows all too well, summarizing films in just the right amount of detail is harder than it looks, but Mallory succeeds admirably with lively writing and fascinating trivia.  (One such tidbit:  the 1941 genre-flavored murder mystery Horror Island winged its way into theaters an amazing twenty-five days after filming began.)  And while his tone is inevitably pro-Universal throughout, he does not refrain from pointing out slip-ups like the glaring continuity gaffes in the Mummy series whereby, if the films’ internal timeline were actually followed, The Mummy’s Curse (1944) would be set sometime in the late 1990s!

This might be regarded as the coffee-table counterpart to the encyclopedic Universal Horrors: The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931-1946 (1990) by Michael Brunas, John Brunas, and Tom Weaver, a 600-page tome that tackles the topic in the painstaking detail one expects from McFarland (ahem).  Mallory’s lavish volume covers the subject more succinctly, yet with rich detail, reminiscences by surviving participants (e.g., Julie Adams, Ricou Browning, Elena Verdugo), and—most important—a wealth of gorgeously reproduced stills and posters.  Sure, I’ve seen some of these photos before, but man, they’ve never looked so good as they do in this 9 ¼” x 12 ¼” format, and many were new to me.  The size, clarity, and sheer number of these illustrations is positively jaw-dropping.

The book does display some curious choices and omissions.  For example, Mallory rhapsodizes about Olga Baclanova’s smoldering pre-Code performance in The Man Who Laughs (1928), yet makes no mention of her infamous appearance as the ill-fated aerialist in one of the most notorious of all horror films, Freaks (1932), perhaps because erstwhile Universal mainstay Tod Browning directed it for MGM instead.  Likewise, the jacket features portraits of all of the major monsters discussed therein, but the Mummy is represented by the otherwise obscure Tom Tyler in The Mummy’s Hand (1940) rather than by Karloff, who created the role in the 1932 original, or Chaney Jr., who endured it in three sequels.  This might be excused, since Karloff and Chaney are already depicted as Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man, respectively, yet Dracula appears in the person of John Carradine instead of Lugosi.  To exclude the man who was, in a sense, directly responsible for Universal Horror with his breakthrough success in Browning’s Dracula (1931) seems inexplicable indeed.

But these and some unfortunate proofing errors marring an otherwise professional presentation (e.g., “who’s” instead of “whose,” a real Word-Man pet peeve, in a photo caption) can be easily overlooked in a book that offers so much.  Not for nothing have the Universal Horror films remained favorites for almost eighty years, and this admiring, affectionate tribute gives them their due in a respectful and effective way.  Highly recommended.

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